Fig and chestnut trees are reborn by surprise on the edge of the volcano

The top of a fig tree rises above the ashes. / M. NOGALES/IPNA-CSIC

Plant specimens, located less than 200 meters from the Tajogaite crater, sprout before the incredulous gaze of biologists

Carmen Delia Aranda

The team of biologists carrying out the
monitoring of the impact on biodiversity of the volcanic eruption of Cumbre Vieja continues to be surprised. “It is amazing to have lived through this whole process and it has made me change my way of thinking quite a bit,” explains the biologist at the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology (IPNA) and coordinator of the Higher Center for Scientific Research (CSIC) in the Canary Islands, Manuel Nogales.

The last reason for astonishment has been to verify that to the prodigious resistance of Canarian pines to volcanic phenomena is added that of other
two plant species that are sprouting on the edges of the volcano; the
fig treeswhose trunks have been literally buried by ash, and the
chestnut trees. «We have been surprised to see how chestnut and fig trees near the crater have managed to survive. This quality has to do with its condition of
woody species. They are, without counting the Canarian pine, the species that have escaped the best", explains the scientist who, after the end of the eruption, travels to La Palma every month to dedicate a week to field work to
monitoring of the evolution of the most affected biodiversity by the volcano

«
We keep doing the same thing we did in full eruption although, at that time, as the lavas were occupying the land, we were retracting the observation sites," explains Nogales.

Field work

The task consists of observing the changes in the state of the vegetation and the invertebrates that have resisted in the vicinity of the volcano, although
the fauna disappeared from the beginning of the eruptionespecially lizards and birds, indicates the biologist.

“We monitor monthly and, in the case of invertebrates, every two months. We also monitor the bats every six months," says the scientist who explores the first strip of land closest to the rim of the crater and the lava flows in search of plant and animal life.

"In that area,
except the chestnut and fig trees, everything has disappeared», comments the biologist who calculates that in the first kilometer closest to the volcano, the thickness of the ashes is at least one and a half meters. «
Small plants, such as amagantes or heather, are completely covered and have not managed to survive", Explain.

Not all the pines that sprouted next to the volcano will survive

As for the fauna, the lizards still do not appear there. "They haven't finished recovering. In that kilometer closest to the volcano we can count the lizards that we have seen with the fingers of one hand », abounds the expert who identifies reptiles and bushes as the most affected species in the vicinity of the volcano.

The birds begin to make short forays in this strip and have been seen
chaffinches, canaries or rock pigeonsyes, says Nogales. Regarding the invertebrates, "the largest, the grasshoppers, and those that live linked to dead wood have endured," explains the biologist.

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